Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quantum Refrigerator Offers Extreme Cooling and Convenience

Credit: Schmidt/NIST
Activist Post

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a solid-state refrigerator that uses quantum physics in micro- and nanostructures to cool a much larger object to extremely low temperatures.

What's more, the prototype NIST refrigerator, which measures a few inches in outer dimensions, enables researchers to place any suitable object in the cooling zone and later remove and replace it, similar to an all-purpose kitchen refrigerator. The cooling power is the equivalent of a window-mounted air conditioner cooling a building the size of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It's one of the most flabbergasting results I've seen," project leader Joel Ullom says. "We used quantum mechanics in a nanostructure to cool a block of copper. The copper is about a million times heavier than the refrigerating elements. This is a rare example of a nano- or microelectromechanical machine that can manipulate the macroscopic world."

The technology may offer a compact, convenient means of chilling advanced sensors below standard cryogenic temperatures—300 milliKelvin (mK), typically achieved by use of liquid helium—to enhance their performance in quantum information systems, telescope cameras, and searches for mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

As described in Applied Physics Letters,* the NIST refrigerator's cooling elements, consisting of 48 tiny sandwiches of specific materials, chilled a plate of copper, 2.5 centimeters on a side and 3 millimeters thick, from 290 mK to 256 mK. The cooling process took about 18 hours. NIST researchers expect that minor improvements will enable faster and further cooling to about 100 mK.

The cooling elements are sandwiches of a normal metal, a 1-nanometer-thick insulating layer, and a superconducting metal. When a voltage is applied, the hottest electrons "tunnel" from the normal metal through the insulator to the superconductor. The temperature in the normal metal drops dramatically and drains electronic and vibrational energy from the object being cooled.

NIST researchers previously demonstrated this basic cooling method** but are now able to cool larger objects that can be easily attached and removed. Researchers developed a micromachining process to attach the cooling elements to the copper plate, which is designed to be a stage on which other objects can be attached and cooled. Additional advances include better thermal isolation of the stage, which is suspended by strong, cold-tolerant cords.

Cooling to temperatures below 300 mK currently requires complex, large and costly apparatus. NIST researchers want to build simple, compact alternatives to make it easier to cool NIST's advanced sensors. Researchers plan to boost the cooling power of the prototype refrigerator by adding more and higher-efficiency superconducting junctions and building a more rigid support structure.

Source: NIST
Contact: Laura Ost

This work is supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

* P.J. Lowell, G.C. O'Neil, J.M. Underwood and J.N. Ullom. Macroscale refrigeration by nanoscale electron transport. Applied Physics Letters. 102, 082601 (2013); Published online 26 Feb. 26, 2013.
** See 2005 NIST Tech Beat article, "Chip-scale Refrigerators Cool Bulk Objects," at

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Anonymous said...

Hey, that's cool.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a way to keep my drink cold in the car drink holder...

Chris Barnaby said...

Awesome that this is powered by oil ;)

HereAmI said...

Now, finally, a way to show that the Dark Matter mentioned does not exist. It is hypothesized, as the standard astronomical model, which only sees gravity, and not electromagnetic forces, as being responsible for holding the universe together, is bankrupt without it.
This is a major embarrassment to an industry which has consumed hundreds of millions of currency units since Isaac Newton's time, but which has not advanced its understanding one whit.
Think about it. Gravitational force declines between two objects according to the inverse square rule. Gravity is therefore a very weak force, and can in no way be called upon to hold galaxies together. Electromagnetic forces however, decline inversely with distance, so are orders of magnitude more powerful, and can therefore explain the coherence of galaxies.
So Black Holes, Dark Matter / Energy etc, are merely the delusional ravings of "scientists" who express these concepts as the final refuge of the liar and scoundrel. The situation is identical to the one which confronted the little boy who saw the King walking about with no clothes on. He was the only one brave enough to tell the King the truth about his apparel.

Anonymous said...

This technology can be used to generate electricity and used for mechanical propulsion.

Robin Peterson said...

Our Kitchen Aid Refrigerator which was only operating in our house for less than one year was nevertheless out of warranty (because we bought it 7 mos. before it was installed). I got the name of the authorized repair place, but after checking on Yelp; found that that outfit was not well regarded. Checked Yelp for the best refrigerator repair and came upon Bergen Refrigeration Inc. I called a little after 5 PM and Jack answered. I described the problem, and he was at out house by 9 AM the next morning. He fixed the problem (leak from the freezer).
I highly Recommended

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